I saw someone wearing that on a T-shirt last week and thought, "Thank God."
Che Guevara was Fidel Castro's executioner.
How did he, a monstrous mass murderer, responsible for the blood curdling murders of thousands of teenagers, women and men, become a popular cultural figure embraced by the t-shirt industry, college students and hollywood directors? It's not like we walk around proclaiming Charles Manson a brilliant & kind revolutionary. There must be some machiavellian backdrop. Because this seems like an Alice in Wonderland upside- down world where we celebrate a cold-blooded killer.
On Tuesday Benicio del Toro, who plays Che in Soderbergh's new movie walked out during an interview because he was "uncomfortable" with the questions. He dedicated his Cannes award to Guevara.
I first noticed this cultural phenomenan when my step-son started using "Che" as his pen name on the internet. Then Gisele Bundchen catwalked in a "Che bikini", & suddenly everyone under 21 was wearing a Che Guevera t-shirt. Taco Bell dressed up its Chihuahua spokesdog like Che for its "Taco Revolution" ads and now Steven Soderbergh comes out with his Che Guevara movie.
Beloved revolutionary? Or serial killer?
Myth #1: He was an "intellectual".
Fact: One of the first acts Guevara is known for when he first came to Havana is a massive book burning. Then he signed death warrants for the authors and had them hunted down. He jailed or exiled most of Cuba's best filmmakers, poets and writers. In the mid-60's, thousands of "effeminate" teenagers were taken by force and dumped into prison camps he helped create where the logo read: "Work will make men out of you."
Myth #2: He was for the "people".
Fact: Guevara said he "manufactured evidence" and went on to say "I don't need proof to execute a man...I only need proof that it's necessary to execute him." When he addressed the U.N. in New York in 1964 he proclaimed, "Certainly we execute. And we will continue to execute as long as it is necessary." And he received applause for this. According to the Black Book of Communism, the revolution's firing squad executions, which he started, reached 14,000 by the beginning of the 1970's. The people's crimes? Being anti-Stalinist or being a practicing catholic, among others. He loved and promoted Stalinism, which of course was itself responsible for between 3.5 & 60 million deaths.
Myth #3: He was a Counter-Revolutionary just like U.S. 60's Hippies.
Fact: Che Guevara was anti-rock & roll, making it illegal to own a rock record, to listen to rock music or god forbid! actually play rock music. Che's own grandson, Canek Sanchez Guevara fled Cuba and lives in Mexico. He's a heavy metal rock guitarist and in an interview with Mexico's Proceso magazine said, "In Cuba freedom is nonexistent. The regime demands submission and obedience...the regime persecutes hippies, homosexuals, free-thinkers and poets. They employ constant surveillance, control and repression." He was one of the lucky ones; he got out alive. Although he blames Fidel for the repressive regime, it was his grandfather who helped create it.
Che was such a visionary, he helped create the notorious peligrosidad predelictiva law ("dangerousness likely to leading to crime"); which predated Tom Cruises' job in the movie "Minority Report". Like Minority Report, where a special police department called "Precrime" apprehends criminals based on foreknowledge provided by 3 psychics before any crime is actually committed; all you have to be arrested for in Cuba is your likelihood to commit a crime. Beaten, torture, labor camps, death.And the machiavellian backdrop? The American media and hollywood who have chosen to set Che in the light of a 'benign revolutionary' have relied solely on diaries that he wrote and the memories of his co-thugs. The diaries went through Fidel Castro's propaganda machine and came out the other side with very little reality, and a whole lot of fiction.
And what of the hundreds of survivors and witnesses of this genocidal regime created by Che and Fidel, who mostly live in Florida, having fled the Marxist-Communist nation? They have been ignored in favor of this sanitized version of reality approved by Cuba's dictator. They stand ready as witnesses to tell their story. Time magazine has never come knocking. Neither did Soderbergh.
Post-script: An estimated 80,000 Cubans have died trying to flee Cuba by boat, rafts, makeshift anythings that might get them to the shores of the United States of America. They've died by drowning, sharks and exposure.